Location: Rutland, Vermont
I woke up on the cold floor this morning. I need to remember that when I am drinking alcohol, I cannot handle as many beers as I could before the trail. I have 25 lbs fewer on my body and I don’t drink as often as I did. I actually wonder if I should stop drinking alcohol at all while on this trip. It is really messing up my schedule. I hadn’t planned to take a zero in town today, but I felt so bad after last night. Also, I was sore. I’m told that I fell while trying to climb onto the top bunk and that I just decided to sleep on the floor. Apparently last night was pretty ridiculous, or at least I was in ridiculous condition.
Today I had strong urges to go home. I haven’t had those feelings before today. At about 500 miles, many people suffer their first episode of decreased motivation. I just kept thinking to myself that I would be better and happier if I were at home. I just wanted to be home. I think the zero day will help me. I need to sit and think about whether or not I really want to do this. Towns have a tendency to make me think about quitting.
I talked to a couple northbounders about my feelings and they assured me that everyone has these doubts. They told me to take a day off, two even, and to take a break from hiking. They said if my mind doesn’t change, then I should go home then. I’m feeling better now, but I wasn’t well earlier. I don’t think that I would have quit, but for the first time the thought really crossed my mind.
I am taking a zero day with the Twelve Tribes, a unique religious cult. It is an intentional community. The cult is Christian basically, but they call the Messiah ‘Yahshua.’ Everything belongs to the community, there are few personal possessions. The cult is nationwide and international. This particular community is about 75 people. They live in a compound with four homes. The children are homeschooled by the women and kept very sheltered. The men work to make money for the community. The community owns a bakery and a sporting goods store in Rutland. The men run both of these stores. They aren’t paid salary or hourly wages for their time, instead all of the profits are included in a fund to support the community. Everyone works to better the community.
I haven’t learned much about the cult, only what I can pick up in conversation with the brothers and the literature that I find around the dormitory. I do know that men are ranked higher than women and the older over the younger. A council of elders makes decisions for the community. The people in the cult believe in a life without guilt, loneliness, anger, and suspicion. The main goal of each individual is to love everyone. ‘Love’ is a powerful term around here, and so is ‘Sin.’ They think many things are sinful, such as loneliness. It is a sin to be alone and without love.
I also learned that the cult has three destinations for the afterlife. The Kingdom of Heaven, where they hope to go, a place similar to Earth reserved for those people not of the faith but of good morals and virtues, and then the Lake of Fire. Sinners are cast into the Lake of Fire. When Yahshua returns, he will cast all sinners into the Lake of Fire and also throw Hell into the Lake of Fire where it will be forever destroyed.
The brothers here have not tried to push their beliefs on me. Their mission to help hikers and the needy is not actually a mission to proselytize. The people have been friendly and generous. I was originally skeptical about the idea of spending a couple days in the cult community, but I have had a pleasant time in Rutland. Tomorrow morning I will continue to help in the kitchen to work off my stay. I can appreciated the generosity, courtesy and goodwill of the cult, but fear not, I’m not joining.
I have gotten bored at the hostel today. There isn’t a large area to relax, so I just lied around in bed and on the porch. The heat was stifling though, and I could only bear sitting on the deck on top of the building for a few minutes. I crossed the street to eat lunch at the Chinese-American restaurant. The restaurant is rundown and outdated. I felt as though I walked into a restaurant in the seventies. Nothing had been replaced or modernized in decades. My waitress was a white, middle-aged redneck that was missing her front teeth. She gave me a menu, laminated and cheap. There were very few selections. Nothing grabbed my attention right away, but I eventually settled on Teriyaki Beef with fried rice and Chicken Chow Mein. The food took only minutes to prepare, which makes me think that I wasn’t getting the freshest meal. The plate was loaded with food, but the meal was mainly this slimy, green and white slop that I suppose is Chow Mein. I ate the two beef skewers first and then finished a few scoops of rice that I loaded with soy sauce. I tasted the Chow Mein after picking through the nasty heap of food. I gagged as soon as the chicken touched the back of my tongue. I nearly threw up on my plate. I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference because my plated already looked like the cook threw up on it for me. I was in and out of the restaurant in ten minutes. Even now I think I am going to be sick by just thinking about the Chow Mein. Obviously I am spoiled, haven eaten Red Dragon so often. The Chinese meal that I had to day was the worst meal I have had on or off the trail.
This evening I didn’t take any chances on cuisine. I chose to eat at Wendy’s. Eggshells, a hiker from Northern Virginia who spent a semester at ASU in Boone, went with me to fill up on fast food. The food was predictably good, but six dollars won’t fill me up anymore. I spend ten dollars on food. All I do is eat and eat when I come to town. I had four bagels for breakfast this morning. The women behind the counter couldn’t believe that I ate four bagels with butter. She even told her coworkers who in turn questioned me, ‘Are you the bagel guy?’
Eggshells and I talked about quitting the trail while we ate spicy chicken sandwiches and fries. He helped show me that everyone goes through phases when they want to go home. He said that several times he had decided to quit and that he had even called his parents to come and get him twice. But, every time that he wanted to go home, he took a couple days off at a town, and each time he chose to get back on the trail. Of course, I also found out that he had cycled the road through Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. So, he has skipped a few hundred miles of the trail. Sometimes I wish that I could skip some sections just so that I could be closer to home. I am excited though to see Chris in September. Hopefully I will be in an interesting place for him to join me for a hike.
Tomorrow I’ll return to the trail. I will work for a few hours in the morning in the café, and then I will take the bus back to the trail and start south once more. This time, I must hike until I leave Vermont. I need to overcome this emotional slump that I am in. A couple hundred miles should do the trick. I won’t give up.